Once upon a time...my parents invited me to go to Africa. I’ve never been on safari but neither my husband nor my boys wanted to go. Here then was the opportunity though it meant leaving the boys the last morning of spring break. A bit of a heavy heart as time with them is so limited but I decided I had to seize the day.
But then...I discovered the first week was a retreat. I wanted to go photograph animals and here was this schedule full of speakers. A poet, an artist, a nutritionist, and an environmentalist. I couldn’t figure out the theme. I’d be forced to fake being extroverted and interested. It got worse when I saw the guest list. What on earth would I have to contribute to this, frankly, esteemed and accomplished group?
I put a brave face on it. Smiled my way through the introductions. Prepared to suffer through hours of evening talks.
But slowly as we went around the room making introductions, I found there were common worries about the state of the world. There were experiences that intersected. While most groups take time to gel before they open up and begin sharing, this one seemed to coalesce immediately.
And so began one of the most transformative weeks I can remember. Lead by the brilliant Ian McCallum, our discussions ranged over poetry, re-wilding, conservation, and finding hope in a troubled world. The realisation that there are actions we can all take to change our corner of the world gave me a new sense of purpose. The reminder that no matter how disparate our lives seem, they share common threads and common narratives. Most of all, I was privileged to spend time with a group of people who find their church in the wild and recognise that we all carry the wild within us.
Our days began with coffee by the fire bowl as the inky black gave way to dawn and then game drives into the beautiful Segera Retreat. The land was once barren and over-grazed but thanks to conscious management, the land is now alive and restored. This is the heart of re-wilding. Allowing the land to come back to life. Migration patterns have been re-established. The 4Cs - Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce - provide the heart beat of this re-wilding. Working with the community to preserve the local culture and conserve the environment has resulted in strong bonds, as we discovered when we visited SATUBO.
Our game drives morning and afternoon never failed to provide wonderful game sightings. While visiting in spring meant that we occasionally had to flee from the rains (or drink Gin and Tonics while we watched it pour down) it also meant the land was coming alive. We saw jackal and hyena pups. We were treated to the mating displays of the Kori Bustard and heard the mating call of the leopard. The plumage of the black widow bird delighted me - how the poor male flew with a streamer of feathers nearly twice is length boggles the mind.
Our meals were family style and the seating arrangements fluid so that by the end of the week there was no one I hadn't shared a meaningful conversation with. Much of the food is locally grown in the garden and all of it is lovingly prepared by Chef Elizabeth. Not many people go on holiday and return feeling thinner and healthier but I think we all felt physically better for our stay.
And we talked. We talked about the joy of being in the wild and letting our souls be free. We talked about being lost and finding a purpose. We shared poems and stories. There was laughter and tears so by the end, I felt that I had spent a week with old friends. It was hard to leave them all behind as we headed on to Botswana.